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If you're a parent working from home, you may be longing for the day you can return to your (relatively) distraction-free office. Many home office workers struggle to stay productive, and having family members around multiples this problem. Constant interruptions make it hard to maintain focus and competition for WiFi bandwidth can make online teleconferences cho-py a-d h-rd to fol-ow.

Here are some tips from families who’ve found ways to balance work, study, and play together---every day.

How to Work From Home With Kids

Working from home means you can spend more time with your family. Defining how much time and when is the key to familial harmony and personal productivity. To succeed, you need a realistic plan, positive reinforcement, and a little help from the internet.

1. Communicate expectations: Be proactive with your boss. Remind them you have kids at home and cannot guarantee an interruption-free day.

When you’re on the phone or in a video conference, give participants a heads-up kids are in the vicinity and they may hear arguments over toys or the TV remote. Use the mute button when possible to minimize background noise.

2. Explore childcare resources: Ask grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. to set up playdates. When in-person time isn’t possible (ahem, COVID-19), use a video chat app such as FaceTime instead.  While family members enjoy time with your kids, you can work without distractions. It's a win-win for the home team. 

3. Plan activities that don’t require supervision: For small children, videos, educational games, and apps can keep kids busy. For older kids, quality TV shows such as Nature and America’s Got Talent have some nutritional value, and online gaming (in reasonable doses) can foster socialization with their peers so long as you know with whom they're socializing. Facebook has Messenger Kids with video calling, lots of built-in games and silly activities and total transparency for you. Or you might look at, which has lots of fun and educational courses done via Zoom with accredited teachers.

Dolly Parton Work from Home Parent Schedule

4. Prioritize your schedule:
Trying to get work done with kids in the house can feel like spinning plates. If you have a spouse or partner who is also working from home, set up shifts where you work for 3-4 hours while your partner attends to the kids/keeps the plates spinning. When your work time is up, switch roles so your partner can work while you watch the kids.

Save your most focused, high-priority tasks for when kids are distracted, either by your partner or one of the activities mentioned above. Keep your employer in the loop so they know when it’s a good time to connect you.

5. Set boundaries: Explain to your kids how “work works,” and think of a situation they can relate to (if you can). For example, if your kids like to play video games, ask them how they would feel if you interrupted them during an important moment while they were trying to beat the bad guys.

Make it clear how kids should behave during work time versus other times, and let them know when it's okay and not okay to interrupt.

  • doorhanger-ctaEstablish a rule: when your office door is closed, kids should knock.
  • Tie a ribbon on the doorknob so kids know when you’re on the phone or don’t want to be disturbed. Or, download and print our door-hanger.
  • Discuss the difference between emergency situations (where it’s always okay to interrupt) and non-emergencies that need to wait until work time is over.

6. Reward good behavior: Things won’t always go perfectly, but when they do, celebrate! Recognize and reward kids for respecting the new rules and boundaries.

Have your kids write out ideas for rewards and treats and put in a canister. When kids follow the rules and you have a productive day, let them pick out a reward slip from the canister.

More Work From Home Tips

Creating a plan and following the tips above is just a starting place. If the initial plan doesn’t work out, talk to your family and make changes as needed. 

If your kids aren’t the only ones who struggle to make good decisions when you’re not there to remind them, we can help. ITI has more than 150 online courses that help employees understand the value of making safe, responsible choices.

Choose one of our pre-built training plans, create a custom plan, or even a custom training video. Connect with a training consultant to learn more. Reach us online or by phone (360-576-5976 option 4).

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